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    Theme of Love in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

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    In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” William Shakespeare compares love and dreams to prove that love is dependent on dreaming. Throughout the play, characters are placed under magical love spells by Puck, which differ from the beginning of the play. As the play comes to an end, Puck must sprinkle the appropriate potion on each character’s eyes so they will fall in love with the correct person. Therefore, he must spread the love potion correctly so that the relationships will be restored to their original form. At the end of the play, Puck urges the audience to remember the play as if it had all been a dream. This brings the audience back to the idea that while the characters are under the magic spell, they are overcome by a dream, representing the relationship between love and dreams. In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the relationship between love and dreams that Shakespeare uses demonstrates that a requirement of love is dreaming.

    In the beginning of the play, Theseus, Duke of Athens, is preparing to marry Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. One day the Athenian nobleman Egeus storms into Theseus’ court with his daughter, Hermia, and two men, Lysander and Demetrius. Egeus wants his daughter to marry Demetrius, but she refuses due to her love for Lysander. Frustrated by Hermia’s refusal, Egeus seeks help asking that the penalty of the law fall on Hermia’s head. Theseus makes the decision that Hermia will have until his wedding to make her decision. However, Hermia is unmoved and does not plan on following her father’s or Theseus’s orders. She tells her friend Helena that she and Lysander plan to escape and elope. In the hopes of regaining Demetrius’s love, Helena tells Demetrius of Hermia’s and Lysander’s plan. They decide to follow Lysander and He into the woods when the lovers try to escape. In the woods a very different group of characters is found. Oberon, the fairy king, and Titania, his queen, are at odds. Seeking revenge, Oberon sends Puck to obtain a magical flower, whose juice makes the person fall in love with the first thing he or she sees. Puck is supposed to spread it over Titania’s eyes to fall in love with Oberon, but instead she falls in love with Bottom. Similarly, both Lysander and Demetrius fall in love with Helena due to the magic potion instead of Hermia and Helena, respectively. In the end, Puck sprinkles the love potion correctly, and all is well. Only Puck remains at the end, and he asks the audience, “If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended, that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear” (Shakespeare 1235). In the end, the play was all just a dream.

    Because one must be in a dream in order to experience passionate love, Shakespeare illustrates the dependent relationship between the two. Dreams are the stories that the brain tells while one sleeps: collections of clips, feelings, memories, and images that involuntarily occur. Sometimes, people dream about a situation they desire, while other times people dream about a person they love. This proves that dreaming is a passionate experience. Similarly, love is a passionate experience. As seen in the play and real life, there are multiple kinds of love and multiple directions from which one can approach it. People experience many different types of love throughout their lives, one of which is a passionate love similar to the one between Lysander and Hermia. Love and dreams are experiences that are felt every day of someone’s life; love and dreams have similar abilities to enliven people’s lives. Dreams and love are passions that cannot be stopped. However, in order to passionately live life, one must experience both love and dreams. As Shakespeare demonstrates in his play, one can only experience a passionate love if one dreams.

    Through Lysander and Hermia, Shakespeare shows that a passionate love can only occur in a dream. In the play, Hermia and Lysander share a passionate love, but it occurs in a dream. Since they recognize the passion they have, they believe they have to signify the bond themselves without her father’s approval. Before they run away, Lysander warns Hermia saying, “The course of true love never did run smoothly” (1185). This can be seen when Lysander has a magical spell cast over him which leads him to fall in love with Helena. At the end of the play, in order to have this passion returned, Lysander has to be put under another spell by Puck. Thus, Lysander has to be put under a dream of sorts in order to fall back in love with Hermia. While he was sleeping, Puck sprinkles the potion into his eyes and says, “Gentle lover, remedy. When thou waks’t, thou taks’t true delight in the sight of thy former lady’s eye” (1218-1219). Therefore, Lysander has to be dreaming in order to love Hermia passionately. It did not go as smoothly as she planned. Through this, Shakespeare demonstrates that if one wants to have a passionate love, they must be in a dream. Passion is something outside of this world, so it does not always seem real. In order to have a love like this, it has to start with a dream. Thus, love is dependent on dreams. Intuitively, humans should have the ability to feel true love without dreaming, but that is not the case. If people want to experience a passionate love like Lysander and Hermia, they must be in a dream. Through their passionate love which occurs in a dream, Shakespeare shows their dependent relationship.

    Moreover, the similarities of irrationality between love and dreams allow writers such as Shakespeare to create a relationship between the two. Love has the amazing ability to confound the rational attempts to define it. The ability of love to defy reason is not a fluke of human thought; in reality, it is central to love itself. Love is constantly working outside the realm of reason. The illusions of love and the ways that it distorts reality are not side-effects; they are actually components of love itself. Like love, dreams work outside reason. How often can someone remember a “reasonable” dream that he or she had? It is more common for people to remember the vivid, interesting, and unbridled dreams they experience. These different, illogical dreams that people have are not contrary to the meaning of dreaming itself; rather they are the essence of dreams. Similar to love, dreams operate outside of reason. This is why Shakespeare decides to connect the two since they both defy the realms of reason, enabling him to create a relationship between love and dreams.

    Through the false and irrational love between Titania and Bottom, Shakespeare demonstrates the relationship between love and dreams. After being ordered by Oberon, Puck sprinkles the magic dust into Titania’s eyes as she is sleeping, but instead of seeing Oberon when she woke, she sees Bottom immediately falling in love with him. During this time, Titania is cast under the dream of the magical potion, forcing her to see something ugly as something beautiful. She does not have the capacity to see the ugliness of his donkey head. She says, “Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful” (1206). Bottom initially doubts her instantaneous love, but he eventually admits that “reason and love keep little company together nowadays” (1206). Through this quote, Shakespeare illustrates that love is not rational. In the case of the play, being completely overcome by the potion, Titania disregards the ugliness, which is something that occurs often in relationships. When in love, people tend to become blind to their partner’s negative traits. They internally create the ideal person they want to love, and they neglect any rational thoughts. As in the play, people become blind with their own magic potion, denying all reason and instead following a dream. Man’s love depends on first dreaming so that he can create his own image of his lover. Therefore, in the play, Titania’s love for Bottom requires her to dream that something better is in front of her. Through Titania and Bottom, Shakespeare supports the idea that love is dependent on dreaming.

    In the end, love requires dreaming. When one enters into a relationship, they are acting upon into a dream or fantasy. People in love freely accept the magic and illogicalness associated with a relationship. Moreover, the substance of dreams is love. In dreams, people create different worlds of themselves in the context of others, and this creation is love. When in love, people create worlds of dreams, and similarly in dreams, people create worlds of love. When this connection is made it is easy to see they are absolutely dependent on one another. In the world of dreams it is the coalescence of the memories and emotions that we have that makes the world meaningful. People need those memories and emotions so that they can have love. In order for someone to be in love, it has to be meaningful. Therefore, by using the different types of love and the magical flower, Shakespeare illustrates that love is dependent on dreaming.

    Work Cited

    1. Shakespeare, William. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Eleventh Edition, edited by Michael Meyers, Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2016, pp. 1182-1236.

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